Being a fan of Gundam Wing, storytelling, and abundant customisation, it’s no surprise the new Nintendo Switch demo for Daemon X Machina caught my attention. What really pulled me in initially was the kickass art and sound design, which it turns out, comes from a collaboration of some seasoned veterans: Producer Kenichiro Tsukada, known for the Armored Core series, is joined by his colleague Shōji Kawamori is responsible for the unique and (fully customizable) mech designs known as “Arsenals” in this universe; character designs by Yusuke Kozaki, who was behind the fantastic designs in Fire Emblem Awakening and Fire Emblem Fates (the former being one of my top favourite video game, the latter I consider an amazing work of beautiful, intricate character art;) all of this accompanied by an extremely fitting, synthwave-techno-rock score by Junichi Nakatsuru and Rio Hamamoto. (Seriously, the music is awesome.) Every name attached to this title so far has a number of titles in the realm of military-esque combat, science fiction, fighting games, and/or mech media.
The general synopsis of this game is as follows, according to the official website (linked above):
A tale of mercenaries facing off against their own beliefs written in blood and steel. The Moon has plummeted from the sky, pushing humanity to the brink of extinction. Players will control one mercenary trying to survive. Through battle after chaotic battle, the protagonist’s path will cross with many others. Just what will they discover when their journey reaches its end?
I’d like to add that this is a high future situation on top of what’s described above. Characters offhand mention how books are virtually (no pun intended) unheard of. Additionally, there’s been the present threat of gargantuan mech-like creatures known as Immortals, which corrupt AI systems for their own use. They’re almost Shadow of the Colossus massive and are shown to be difficult to kill. As a mercenary, you’re contracted by the Sky Union with the aid of your AI liaison Four, to dispatch corrupted AI as well as Immortals.
As you go through the first few orders (missions) you begin to unlock the various customizable elements. New parts obtained from fallen enemies on the battlefield can be exchanged on your mech, known as an Arsenal, to increase your damage output and durability; you’ll also have the chance to pick up new weapons, which you can equip and switch between in combat. Although, environmental elements such as cars and street lamps can be used in combat as well! (I’m still getting the hang of this part, but the tutorial gives you a pretty decent rundown of everything.) But as I discovered, the customized technology isn’t just limited to your Arsenal…
Every order completed earns you credits and increases your war record, which aids your character’s reputation and brings in more work. At first, I wasn’t sure what the credits were for, I didn’t see anywhere to buy new Arsenal equipment yet, but I did unlock The Lab. Basically, I accidentally gave myself high tech eye implants and it concerned me greatly.
For 20,000 credits, you can “Restore Organic Body” although that removes all of the skills, so I’m wondering if you can truly progress and become stronger without becoming an unsettling cyborg. Instinctively, I wanted to reload a save, but then decided that would be silly given this is a demo. Consequently, I’ve decided to lean into these weird body mods, which seem to get more and more strange. The increasingly inhuman appearance of my avatar, contrasted against the whole concept of an antagonistic force that corrupts AI to bolster its own ranks, makes me wonder if this technology will make the player character more vulnerable. Will there be a risk of hacking, not just for my mech, but my own biotech? It’s already hinted in an early mission that one of the arsenal teams, Horizon, was contracted to destroy a library that the player and the other mercenaries were contracted to protect. In this scenario, the aforementioned AI Four declines to divulge information, leading your teammate, Gun Empress, to hack the system to get answers. Clearly there’s some political duplicity involved and some covert operations at play… and I’m absolutely here for it.
This game’s world doesn’t feel too much like an actual world yet, but I’m willing to believe there will be more content to flesh it out. I was disappointed that I couldn’t interact with the two mechanics in the hangar and that they’re just generic character-creator-asset fixtures, so I hope in the final release there’s added detail like this to make this feel more like a world with people in it. All of the mercenaries you interact with are introduced with what essentially can be described as chat logs with their faces attached. And while the voice acting is pretty decent, that alone doesn’t make it much easier to feel immersed in a game world. I want to be able to stand face to face with NPCs and talk to them a little, even if it’s like Fire Emblem where your responses are typically predetermined. Granted, there are a handful of cutscenes where the camera view enters the cockpits of arsenals and we see the actual pilots speak, I was grateful for that and sincerely hope there’s more in the final product. So far, the characters I’ve met have unique designs and personalities, making me really want to see their full body designs! The only real hangup I have so far is Artist (pictured above,) who feels a lot like Lucio from Overwatch if he was really into street art. Either way, every character seems to have a pretty unique and I’m invested in learning more about them as well as their individual paths, values, and fates throughout the game.
I’ve seen some framerate drops amidst the more chaotic battle scenarios, although this can probably be ironed out before launch. Here’s hoping this intriguing new Switch RPG will release with loose ends tied up. Below is an early cutscene with my unaltered avatar, starting Arsenal, and subsequent upgrades to the latter:
Daemon X Machina: Prototype Missions is available on the Nintendo Switch eShop for “a limited time” as the official site vaguely states. Online multiplayer is noted to be included in the final release, allowing up to 4-player co-op. No firm release date has been announced beyond Summer 2019, but you can be sure I’ll be following this title and covering details to come.